Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dropping our stones

In reading the story of the adulterous woman this week, I was struck for the first time by the question—what happened to the guy involved?

The story is in the Bible Lesson, which focuses on the words and works of Christ Jesus. Here's the whole story from the Gospel of John, for those who are not familiar with it:

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

--John 8:1-11

It was the "in the very act" phrase that caught my attention. Clearly, then, the guy involved must have been right there. Did he get grabbed and threatened with stoning?

My friend pointed out to me also that the ones wanting to stone her were all men. And Jesus was a man. So Jesus did more than simply rectify the situation and pacify a violent moment. He also turned these men around, from a more animal reaction to a more introspective one.

Causing people to examine themselves instead of judging another seems to me to be one of the hallmarks of Jesus' ministry. But really digging into our own failings and exposing them to the open air is about the hardest thing we'll ever have to do. I know whenever something new is revealed to me that I should deal with, I spend the first moments (sometimes days) justifying or rationalizing or excusing myself. I think, People should understand me better rather than expecting so much. This rationalizing could be my own modern version of stoning—attacking outside myself instead of recognizing the sin within.

A few tough-love words from Mary Baker Eddy:

We confess to having a very wicked heart and ask that it may be laid bare before us, but do we not already know more of this heart than we are willing to have our neighbor see? We should examine ourselves and learn what is the affection and purpose of the heart, for in this way only can we learn what we honestly are.

--Science and Health

Do I really want to know what I honestly am? Or would it make me, like the men surrounding Jesus and woman, turn shamefacedly away and drop my stones?

And I wonder about the man involved in the adultery story. Did he love the woman? Was he horrified that his actions led to her disgrace? Did he stand aside helpless, or did he run away in fear, abandoning her to the harsh judgment of that day? Or did he pray for her, lurking on the sidelines watching to see what would happen? And was he, too, healed by Jesus' words?

I like to think so. And I'd like to be healed myself the same way.

Reminder: Due to traveling, I will not be blogging from August 30 - September 6. But I promise to come back with lots of good material!

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 8/23/2006 10:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am a guy and I too have wondered ever since I first read this story--what about the man involved? Did Jewish law hold him innocent and only the woman guilty to death? Wow, no wonder feminism took such root in Jewish households in modern times with a history like that. And judging by news from the Islamic world, all the Semitic tribes were equally misogynistic.

At 8/23/2006 03:38:00 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

thanks for bringing up this question! I've often wondered, especially when you think about Leveiticus 20 where the execution of the law against adultery is laid out - the man is supposed to be put to death too. But he is not present in this story (that we know of). And how difficult life and this sense of justice was for women (still is in some areas), when there is no distinction on intention, just looking at the act.

I like the idea you mention that maybe he's lurking on the sidelines and is healed as well. I am sure all of Jesus' healing were full and complete - so how could that man not be included in the healing.

I know I'd have to drop my stone. Mostly I hope I wouldn't even pick one up. :)

At 8/26/2006 09:27:00 PM, Blogger kindli said...

We had a great conversation about the story years ago in my Sunday School class... they were caught "in the act," so logically, they were naked (this horrified the only boy in a class full of girls). Unfortunaly we never find out what happend to the guy, I find this aspect rather irksome, he was just as involved as she was!


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